Despite its mixed critical reception, it was a success at the box office. The film launched a franchise with a series of films, including the sequel Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa in 2008 and another film Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted in 2012. A spin-off featuring the series' penguin characters, Penguins of Madagascar, was released on November 26, 2014.
The film begins in Madagascar with Marty the zebra swinging a vine and yelling like Tarzan as the title card pops up. Then singing penguins fly away as he manges to avoid falling from a pit. Alex the lion then starts stalking Marty as he heads to a river. The lion then says "Surprise!" as we cut to Central Park Zoo and the sequence turns out to be a daydream Marty was having.
At the Central Park Zoo, Marty is celebrating his tenth birthday, but has grown bored with his daily routine and longs to experience the wild. Marty's best friend is Alex the lion, who enjoys showing off for the public and his celebrity status as "the king of New York". Alex attempts to cheer Marty up, but Marty, still unsatisfied, gets some tips from the zoo's penguins Skipper, Kowalski, Rico, and Private who are trying to escape the zoo, and follows them out. Alex, Melman the giraffe, and Gloria the hippopotamus pursue Marty in an attempt to convince him to return. The four, along with the penguins and two chimpanzees named Mason and Phil, find themselves at Grand Central Station, where they are quickly sedated via tranquillizer gun when Alex's attempt to communicate with humans is mistaken for aggression. The zoo, under pressure from anti-captivity activists, is forced to ship the escaped animals by sea to a Kenyan wildlife preserve. During their travels, the penguins escape from their enclosure and take over the ship, intent on taking it to Antarctica. Their antics on the bridge cause the crates containing Alex, Marty, Melman, and Gloria to fall overboard and wash ashore on Madagascar.
The animals are soon able to regroup, initially believing themselves to be at the San Diego Zoo. Upon exploring, however, they come across a pack of lemurs, led by King Julien XIII, and learn their true location. Alex blames Marty for their predicament and attempts to signal for help to get back to civilization. Marty, on the other hand, finds the wild to be exactly what he was looking for, with Gloria and Melman soon joining him in enjoying the island. Alex eventually comes around, but, deprived from the raw steaks he was provided with at the zoo, his prey drive begins to show as hunger kicks in. The group is accepted by the lemurs, though King Julien's adviser, Maurice, cautions them about Alex's predatory nature. King Julien ignores Maurice's concerns and persuades the group to help the lemurs fend off the fossa, who hunt the lemurs as prey. While Alex initially scares the fossa away and is worshiped by the lemurs, later, compelled by hunger, he attacks Marty. Realizing that Alex is now a threat, King Julien banishes him to the far side of the island where the fossa live. Seeing what has happened to Alex, and how difficult it is to survive with so many predators around the island, Marty begins to regret his decision to leave the zoo.
The penguins, having been to Antarctica and found that it "sucks", land the ship at Madagascar. Seeing this as a chance to return Alex to New York, Marty rushes after his friend against the wishes of the others. Marty attempts to convince the now grizzled, starving Alex to return, but Alex refuses out of fear of attacking Marty again. The penguins, Gloria, and Melman go to find Marty, but are trapped by the fossa. At the last minute, Alex overcomes his predatory instincts and scares the fossa away from the lemur territory forever. The lemurs regain their respect for Alex, and the penguins help him satisfy his hunger through sushi. As the lemurs throw a farewell celebration for the foursome, the penguins decide not to break the news that the ship has run out of fuel.
Why It Rocks
- Splendid animation, especially for 2005 standards.
- Nice voice acting.
- Likable and funny characters.
- Funny moments such as Alex thinking Marty is steak and Mort getting scared when Alex tries to be nice to him.
- The song "I Like To Move It" (originally by Reel 2 Real) is catchy.
- Madagascar itself looks amazing.
- Some moments in the animation can look kind of creepy (even though it is a fairly old movie), such as when Mort is crying and his eyes look completely black.
- The story can be predictable very shortly.
- Some have compared this film to The Wild, though the latter was put into obscurity.